Florida is well known for finding creative methods of suppressing the vote. They have used methods such as purging “felons” through the use of an algorithm which the designer told them was overly broad and was likely to produce many false positives. Of course those false positives were predominately people of color — in other words, people who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. More recently they attempted to enact a voter ID law which the courts immediately struck down, but they never give up.
Their next voter purge was attempted just last year in an effort to remove “non-citizens” from the rolls. This again disproportionately targeted Hispanics and those of African descent for removal from the rolls of registered voters.
The latest ploy is a new rule issued by Governor Rick Scott’s chief election official Secretary of State Ken Detzner, directing that absentee ballots be returned by mail or directly to the offices of election supervisors.
It has been a common practice in the state to allow ballots to be dropped off at locations such as tax collectors offices, libraries and other sites designated by the local election supervisors. This was to accommodate those who wished to save the postage or found it more convenient to drop them at a nearby location.
The new directive from Detzner requires that only the supervisors office or mail are acceptable and that ballots delivered elsewhere will be disqualified. Detzner says that the measure is an attempt to bring “uniformity” to the process and to protect the integrity of the ballots.
The effects will be felt more in some counties than others. Some do not use alternate drop sites at all, but some use many sites, such as Pinellas County where they have been utilizing as many as 14 alternate sites.
Pinnellas County election supervisor, Deborah Clark said, “I’m very worried about this. I’m just stunned.” She added that Pinellas County “has used drop-off sites since 2008 and used 14 in the 2012 general election.”
In the 2012 general election, 42% of the votes cast in Pinellas were by absentee ballot, not surprising since like much of Florida they have a high proportion of senior citizens. People over 65 comprise the largest demographic in the county at 22.1%. It is difficult for many of these people to get out to vote in person.
It will not impact two counties at all since they already supply a postage paid return envelope with absentee ballots, Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland says that because of this his county won’t be at all affected. He also said that he doesn’t think that it will in any way suppress the vote since voters who are determined to vote “will overcome any obstacle and vote, the ballot is designed to be mailed and the voter has not lost that option.”
Clark disagrees, she promotes absentee balloting and will also preside over the upcoming special election in March to replace the late C.W. Bill Young, a moderate Republican who has represented the 13th district since 1971. The race is considered a toss-up with a wide field of potential candidates on both sides. She said, “The potential effect on voters is that it reduces opportunities for them to return their ballots.” She is upset that the state did not consult with any of the local supervisors, who are elected in every county except Miami-Dade, before issuing this rule change. “This is not promoting ballot accessibility,” she added.
Supervisor of Elections for Pasco county, Brian Corley, another who thinks that the local supervisors should have been consulted before the change was made, said that the order shows that Detzner has no understanding as to how elections are run.
Corley said, “I have the utmost respect for Secretary Detzner, but he has never run an election and this directive appears to show that. It does give me pause as being anti-voter, and that greatly concerns me.”
Scott’s administration already had strained relations with the county election supervisors who have declined to take part in his renewed efforts to revive the purge, which had to be suspended last year because of the obvious aim to eliminate likely Democratic voters. This new ruling will do nothing to improve that relationship.
h/t: Think Progress